After a poor Olympic showing followed by bullying incidents and the ‘Stilinox Six’ fiasco one of the ways that Swimming Australia has gone about changing the culture within the national team has been to bring back champions from the past to mentor their current leadership group.
One of those champions involved in the mentorship program is Michael Klim, who on Thursday offered support to his former teammates Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe, who have been dealing with challenges in their personal lives, “I think they (both) realise everyone is in their corner wanting them to overcome these challenges,” Klim said to Wide World Sports.
Hackett is currently receiving treatment in the United States for what is assumed to be an addiction to Stilinox while Thorpe is in treatment for depression.
Michael Scott, Swimming Australia’s High Performance Director also expressed his support, making it clear that both Hackett and Thorpe are athletes that he wants to be involved in the mentorship program, “We will embrace a number of our past champions in a variety of activities – certainly Grant and Ian fit that bill,” Scott said.
“They have their personal challenges and we expect that they need some space right now.
“But when the time is right for them then we would certainly like to sit down and talk to them.”
Since the two former the struggles of the two swimming legends have become very public there has been much debate over how athletes transition from their sporting careers to life without sport. Klim explained that it was a challenge for him to make that transition, “One of the first things that Gennadi (Touretski, his former coach) said to me was `now you are married to the sport’,” said Klim.
“I was very insulated. It took me a long time to break out of that and realise there should be a balance.”
Susie O’Neill, who is also part of the mentorship group, spoke about how she had to change her mindset once she retired, “For me it was a change of mindset,” said O’Neill.
“Elite sport is irreplaceable. The quicker you realise that the faster you move forward.”
“And being a mother has really brought me down to earth.”
Both Klim and O’Neill will be meeting with the current the national team leadership group which is made up of; Cate Campbell, Bronte Barratt, Sally Foster, Melissa Gorman, Matthew Abood, Thomas Fraser-Holmes and Rhys Mainstone, at the upcoming 2014 Australian National Championships and Commonwealth Games Trials.